10 facts about Athens

10 things you never knew about the Greek capital

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Friday, 30 August, 2013 by Sally Ashley-Cound

  • Photograph: Flickr/Eustaquio Santimano

    1. The origins of Athens date back to 3000BC, making it one of the oldest cities in the world. It has been continuously habited for at least 3,000 years

  • Photograph: Flickr/Selbe B

    2. Athens is considered the cradle of Western civilisation, being the birthplace of democracy, Western philosophy and literature, the Olympic Games, political science, major mathematical principles and theatre

  • Photograph: Flickr/Redgum

    3. Perhaps Athens’ most famous landmark, the Acropolis refers to the sacred hill where Greeks built many temples; the most important is the Parthenon, in honour of the goddess Athena, from where Athens gets its name

  • Photograph: Flickr/kyriazis

    4. The very first Olympic Games may have been held in 776BC in Olympia (hence the name), but the first modern version of the games as we know them were held in Athens in 1896 – and they returned again to the city in 2004

  • Photograph: Flickr/TravelingOtter

    5. Athens is the most populated region of Greece, with a population of around 4,591,568 people in 2011. However, it is also one of the smallest regions in the country, being less than 1% of the total area of Greece

  • Photograph: Flickr/slazgrc

    6. According to Greek mythology, the olive tree was given to Athens by the goddess Athena, and Greece is now the world’s third leading producer of olives. It is thought that some trees planted in the 1200s are still producing olives

  • Photograph: Flickr/khowaga1

    7. Approximately 17.5 million people visit Greece each year – more than the country’s population. To accommodate the influx, Greece has one of the highest numbers of international airports for any country, the largest being in Athens

  • Photograph: Flickr/namealus

    8. Adjacent to the Greek parliament and a number of significant hotels, Syntagma is the central square of Athens. It is the city’s hub, with the museums of Vasilissis Sofias to the east and the shopping district of Ermou to the west

  • 9. In around 550BC, the Athenians ruled an area named Attica, which contained a rich reservoir of resources: valuable elements such as silver, marble and lead. Attica is now the name of the biggest department store in Athens (if not Greece), where you will find designer and luxury items

  • Photograph: Flickr/Salticidae

    10. The height of the tallest of Athens’ seven hills. Brave visitors can climb to the top of Lykavittos via the seemingly endless stairway. The not so brave can take the funicular railway for a spectacular view of the city from the Acropolis to the Aegean

With a population of over 3 million people, Athens is Greece’s biggest city, as well as a centre for politics and tourism. Before you visit, here are some facts you might not know about the city, its attractions – and the world-class shopping to be found there.

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See how you can save when shopping tax free in Athens here

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